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Sat 16 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Design and build ‘is the way forward’

Construction projects in the Middle East need to be developed on a ‘design and build' basis in order for the industry to move forward successfully, according to Chris O'Donnell, chief executive officer of Nakheel.

Construction projects in the Middle East need to be developed on a ‘design and build' basis in order for the industry to move forward successfully, according to Chris O'Donnell, chief executive officer of Nakheel.

O'Donnell said that fundamental problems exist with the way in which projects are currently executed in the region.

He told MEED's Arabian World Construction Summit that the industry had become too dependent on British approaches to project delivery.

"The market has grown with the British approach, for example with the architect being totally responsible for a project," he said.

"We need to move more towards design and build - where contractors take on more responsibility. I think this is the way forward."

O'Donnell's thoughts were echoed by some contractors in the region, who felt that their lack of involvement in a project from its inception led to fractious relationships, higher costs, delays and outright failure.

"Contractors should be involved in a project at an earlier stage, but some developers still aren't keen to involve us early," said Fatima Obaid Al Jaber, chief operating officer of Al Jaber Group.

"This would help contractors as we have the challenge of meeting the client's expectations and need to plan our resources ahead."

Design changes also present major problems to contractors working under traditional delivery processes, according to Brian Bruce, chief executive officer of Murray & Roberts.

"If a project fails then a lot of questions will need to be answered. The principle objective of a contract is to deliver a project. It's a resource mobilisation and logistics game," he said.

"Traditionally, a contractor would start a project knowing exactly what it had to achieve. But nowadays we're seeing design changes well into the process - we're not seeing focused, steady design - which is why it's important to involve a contractor early."

Design and build contracts are said to reduce overall project costs as well as stave off delays.

From a contractors' point of view, design and build also simplifies the construction process.

Projects that have been implemented on this basis include Al Futtaim Carillion's Dubai Festival City and ALEC's Between the Bridges project in Abu Dhabi.

But while design and build has its benefits, it does not always reduce costs and claims, according to Tracy Nasr, a project manager at Edara.

"Change proposals and variation orders, which are common in large projects, will often surface and result in excessive costs in any design and build case; much more than in a standard project," she said.

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